By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Pentecost experience, akin to the Big Bang that burst out into the universe, continues to expand and accelerate in the creative and saving power of the Holy Spirit. At the Last Supper Jesus promised that the Spirit would lead us into all truth, or a deeper knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of our faith from one generation to the next.
Recently, Pope Francis pronounced that from this day forward the Monday after Pentecost is to be celebrated as the Memorial of Mary, the Mother of the Church. Mary, whose Fiat brought about a new world for God’s plan of salvation in the Incarnation of the eternal Logos, reveals to every generation that the Holy Spirit, when alive in the hearts and minds of the faithful, will bring Jesus Christ to life, a light shining in the darkness.
Mary has many titles in the Church to express the singularity of her vocation and this latest one arises from the Pentecost moment nearly 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. Mary was assembled with the Apostles and the other disciples, 120 in total, when the Holy Spirit poured forth into their hearts and minds, creating a new day with power from on high. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.”
So the mother of the Lord Jesus, has always been and now is formally venerated as the mother of the Church, the Body of Christ in the world. Like Mary, our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord as we treasure all these things in our hearts, holding Jesus Christ close in our daily lives.
As in many instances throughout the history of the Church, Pope Francis, as the successor of St. Peter, speaks on behalf of the Church and in this instance has formally decreed a new memorial on behalf of all of the faithful, many of whom express their love for Mary in their daily devotion. The ministry of the Holy Father, the successor of St. Peter, is to recreate and expand Pentecost when the Holy Spirit raised up St. Peter to speak on behalf of the 120 to the incredulous throngs gathered in Jerusalem for a Jewish feast.
All assembled in prayer had received the gift of the Holy Spirit, represented in the hovering tongues of flames and the strong driving wind. From this mutual encounter with their saving God in Jesus Christ, Peter, with that Galilean accent who only days before vehemently denied his Lord, now boldly evangelized about salvation in his Name to all who would listen. Recently, at a pre-synod gathering on young people, the faith and vocational discernment in Rome, a remarkable photo revealed the dynamics of a Pentecost moment. Pope Francis, in his white cassock, was pictured seated in the center of a packed hall of the faithful, representatives from many nations and regions around the world who were partaking in the pre-synod process.
There sat Francis of Rome surrounded by laity, religious and ordained. Open to the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit all were listening to a presentation, one of many that will lead to a post-synodal exhortation from Pope Francis. Like St. Peter, eventually, he will rise up from the midst of his sisters and brothers and speak to the Church and the world. The Holy Spirit has empowered Pope Francis in his Petrine ministry over the past five years in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
The Joy of the Gospel, Evangelii Guadium, is his landmark Apostolic Exhortation on evangelization, the fruit of a world-wide synodal dialogue and discernment. More recently, he gave to the Church Amoris Latitiae, the Joy of Love, a panorama of the challenges of living the gospel in marriage and family in the modern world. This exhortation emerged as the fruit of the Holy Spirit after a two year, grassroots process in the universal Church, offering a path, consolation, hope and light.
Lastly, the Pentecost moment calls us back to our center where we know that we are God’s children, brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus and temples of the Holy Spirit. I have witnessed the Holy Spirit throughout the Diocese of Jackson during the 19 celebrations of Confirmation to date. These are extraordinary moments to be sure, but they can only materialize because of the Holy Spirit’s burning presence in the hearts and minds of families and parish communities from day to day.
For some, the flame may have been as imperceptible as a pilot light waiting to be stirred into something more in God’s good time. Yet, the gift of the Church, the Body of Christ, calls us all back to our Pentecost, our birthday of the Lord, where we can renew our identity and vocation as his disciples. From that first community in Jerusalem to the many communities throughout our diocese, with Mary, Pope Francis and the newly confirmed, we pray together, Come, Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth.
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz